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harpercollins

Catching My Breath

by Susan Henderson on July 2, 2018

Sometimes life is crazy. Sometimes the whole world is crazy. How are you managing the stress? How are you staying active and engaged, but still caring for your mind and body? I don’t think I’m the only one here who’s struggling with this.

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I’m still doing a lot of events and traveling for THE FLICKER OF OLD DREAMS. Seems like a nutty time to rescue a dog, but… meet Douglas!

These last few weeks have included time with librarians, indie booksellers, fellow writers and readers: Ron Block hosted me at the Cuyahoga County Public Library and showed me all around Cleveland; Carol Ann Tack chatted with me on Merrick Library’s Top Shelf podcast; Joan Galante hosted me at Levittown Library‘s Adult Summer Reading Program (and my favorite bookseller, Carol Hoenig of Turn of the Corkscrew Books & Wine, sold my books there); I read at the KGB Bar with Caroline Leavitt, Jennifer Haupt, and Julie Maloney; the brilliant historical fiction writer, Connie Mayo, hosted a conversation between Amy Wallen, myself, and 40 amazing humans who met to discuss death and dying in Sharon, Massachusetts; Kym Havens, from An Unlikely Story, sold books for us there; I joined up with Books on the T to leave free copies of THE FLICKER OF OLD DREAMS at subway stops throughout Boston and Cambridge; author Karen Stefano curated a fascinating conversation with Amy and me on her Rarebirdlit podcast, where we talked about our death tour; and Jessica Keener moderated a conversation with Amy and me at Porter Square Books.

I’m grateful to every single person who set up and came out to these events!

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I have some fun events coming up at Delaware’s Hockessin Bookshelf, the Syosset Library, Helen Little’s Public Library podcast, and the Montana Book Festival. I’m also starting to find time again for the new book… I’m in research mode, soaking up stories, taking photos, and reading all I can about the setting where my new story will take place!

Oh, and the large print version of my book came out at the end of last month. Very different cover!

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Some thank you’s are in order. Thank you to everyone who snapped photos of my book at airports, including Hollywood Burbank, Pittsburgh International, JFK, and MacArthur.

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And thank you to Wonderlust travel magazine; Little Miss FuneralLydia Cornell; America Reads; The Nervous Breakdown; the brilliant and adorable Brad Listi and his Other People PodcastWriters ReadRanger ReviewBillie HintonBeyond the Book JacketThe Memphis FlyerNorth Central PA; Marjorie’s World of Books; 730 Book Club; Eudora Watson; My Book, The Movie; Lou Pendergrast; and everyone who posted kind reviews on Amazon. (Did you know you can purchase a book at an indie bookstore or borrow it from the library and then post on Amazon?)

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As always, I’ll end by sharing the books I’ve read since my last post:

Ayobami Adebayo, Stay with Me
J. Ryan Stradal, Kitchens of the Great Midwest
John Kessel, Pride and Prometheus
Thomas Lynch, The Undertaking
Sigrid Nunez, The Friend
Zora Neale Hurston, Barracoon
Alma Katsu, The Hunger
Eileen Myles, Afterglow
Sigrid Nunez, The Friend
Fredrik Backman, Beartown
Caitlin Doughty, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
Taha Muhammad Ali (translated by Peter Cole), Nevermind
Jim Crace, Being Dead

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That’s it for now. Talk to me about what you’re doing to stay well, even when you’re super-busy, even when the world feels off its axis.

{ 24 comments }

Question of the Month: Celebration

by Susan Henderson on February 18, 2018

Tell me how you’ve celebrated big moments in your life, whether it’s a book launch, a birthday, a marathon run, a clean bill of health, a sobriety anniversary, weight loss, or any other hard-won accomplishment.

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I’m not actually very good at celebrating. The above picture is how I look when I try to party. Unsure. Off in the back corner of the room, awkward and alone.

I’m not much into whooping it up. In school, I didn’t dress up for St. Patrick’s Day or Halloween. I didn’t cheer at pep rallies, though all students were required to go. I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day or New Year’s Eve. I find it all tiring, burdensome—a real stretch for my personality.

But March is the month my new book goes out into the world, and I worked too hard on it not to acknowledge its birth. So while I suck at parties, I’m always willing to try something new. If you have ideas about how to celebrate, put them in the comments section. I will at least think about trying them!

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As far as my book launch goes, it will be at The Turn of the Corkscrew on Long Island. You can RSVP here. They are a block and a half from the Rockville Center stop on the LIRR, and they have a fantastic menu. And wine! I will be gloriously happy to see you there.

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If you want to help this little book’s trajectory into the world, here are some things you can do: Pre-order or buy on the launch day (it’s all about first-day sales). Post photos of yourself or your pet with the book. If you go to an event, post photos of yourself and the book while you’re there. And if you like what you read, tell others or post reviews on social media.

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All of that said, if you have been on this long journey and have yet to celebrate a finished manuscript, an acceptance letter, or a book launch, what I’m posting below is for you with love, because this has been a long journey, and so much of it has felt like failure. Keep hanging in there and keep sending out your work!

Rejected but Not Defeated

Career Day

Who Owns Our Truths?

At What Point Can You Call Yourself a Writer?

I’m going to leave you with a few hopeful thoughts—and yes, I’ve shared them before because they’ve buoyed me through hard times: Harper Lee only wrote one book (To Kill a Mockingbird). E. Annie Proulx published her first novel (Postcards) when she was 57, Frank McCourt published his first (Angela’s Ashes) at 66, and so did Karl Marlantes, who worked on his (Matterhorn) for 33 years.

You still have time to tell your stories.

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Question of the Month: Intensity

by Susan Henderson on January 14, 2018

Do you know the feeling when too much is flying your way at once and you’re trying to keep calm?

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Two months till launch, and I’m starting to feel the intensity pick up. All last minute edits are in. No more changes allowed. This is the final cover, front and back.

Discussion questions are ready for book clubs.

I’ve contacted a baker for my book launch. (She’s going to make cemetery-themed desserts!)

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I’ve made several trips to HarperCollins. (In the first picture, it’s the building on the right, with the World Trade Center in the middle. The second picture shows what it looks like inside.) One trip was for a party, another for a marketing meeting, and a third to film a video about The Flicker of Old Dreams with my editor, the amazing Sara Nelson.

I feel good about my book and about my team at HarperCollins. Most of what happens from here is out of my hands. And most days I’m okay with that.

But sometimes the fear sets in… Will any of the big outlets want to review my book? Will they like it? Will they even know it exists? Did I do enough? Should I do more? Am I going to lose friends because I’m talking about my book so much? 

The intensity can get inside of me. I can look at all the good things that are happening and see failure. I can look at a beautiful day and see gloom.

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I’m trying to stay steady, no matter what good or bad comes my way. I’m trying to keep it in perspective, in the background where it belongs. And I know how to do this—it’s what I’ve done since college—don’t get caught up in the last thing you wrote, keep moving forward, keep creating. This is the only world I have a shot at controlling, this one on the page, and I’m working hard on something new.

The other thing that keeps me steady is remembering to notice the gifts that are in my life each day, whether it’s a sunrise, a smile at the checkout line, or a word from my kids.

Rather than comparing this time to what it might be like in my most fevered imagination, I need to notice each act of kindness and generosity, however small. Some thank you’s are in order: Eric Forbes at Good Books Guide, Jennifer Haupt at Psychology Today, Publishers Weekly, Ron Block, Virginia Stanley, Binnie Klein, Eileen Tomarchio, Amy Wallen at Savory Salons, LibraryThing, LibraryLoveFest (here and here because they’re that awesome), A Cook and a Book, and folks who posted reviews at GoodReads.

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As always, I’ll end by sharing the books I’ve read since my last post:

Yoko Tawada, Memoirs of a Polar Bear 
William H. Gass, On Being Blue
Colin Dickey, Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places
Luke Dittrich, Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets
A.J. Finn, The Woman in the Window
Lucille Clifton, Mercy 
Melissa Scholes Young, Flood
Carl A. Zimring, Clean and White: A History of Environmental Racism
Marisa De Los Santos, I’ll Be Your Blue Sky 
Jean Cocteau (translated by Mary-Sherman Willis), Grace Notes

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That’s it for now. Talk to me about keeping steady, about not losing perspective. Tell me some stories. Oh, and I have a gift coming for you soon! One of my personal heroes will be here with Words for the Weary. I’m so looking forward to hearing what she has to say, and I can’t wait for you to meet her!

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Question of the Month: Firsts

by Susan Henderson on October 2, 2017

Tell me something you’ve done recently for the first time—a public reading, a crossfit class, a trip to another continent. Whatever it is, I’d like to hear your story.

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Last month, I did my first interview for The Flicker of Old Dreams. It was fun to talk about the new book, about embalming and researching a dying town and how the book became a giant meditation on death. It’s a very generous, 2-page Author Profile in the September 11th issue of Publishers Weekly, and the interviewer, Wendy Werris, was lovely and engaging—a great writer herself, as you’ll see when you read the profile.

My publicist was able to copy the pages so they’re legible, and I’m including them below.

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Since it was my first time talking about the new book, I wasn’t sure what kinds of questions I’d be asked. And then, after talking for an hour, it’s always interesting to me what the interviewer chooses to highlight.

There was a little concern from my publisher that the profile was running so many months before the book will be available. It doesn’t launch until March 2018. But if you’re interested in pre-ordering, you can follow this link. It will give you options for all the main book outlets.

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Oh, later this month, I’ll be on a panel, along with Julia Franks and Margaret Wrinkle and moderated by Susan Larson, celebrating the 10th anniversary for National Reading Group Month. If you want to go, it’s Friday, October 27th in NYC at Cafe Auditorium at 1745 Broadway.

And I also want to give a shout-out to A Bookaholic Swede for featuring The Flicker of Old Dreams on her weekly Cover Crush. And to Peter de Kuster for interviewing me on The Heroine’s Journey.

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I’ll end, as usual, by sharing the books I’ve read since my last post.

Rene Denfeld, The Child Finder
Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Sympathizer
Stephen King, Firestarter
Jamie Ford, Love and Other Consolation Prizes
Roxane Gay, Hunger
Martin Espada, Vivas to Those Who Have Failed

That’s all for October. I look forward to your stories in the comments section. 🙂

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Question of the Month: A Book

by Susan Henderson on December 2, 2016

For those of you working on a book or some other long project, tell me a little about where you are in the process. Or maybe just how that process feels right now.

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It will take a few LitPark posts to describe the long project I just completed. (I wasn’t willing to talk about it at length until I was certain I’d come out the other side.) At times, the process felt like chaos. I felt lost, full of doubt, and afraid I was writing something too big for my capabilities. As many of you know, at one point, I threw everything away and started over.

Again, I’ll share more specifics later. But I read an interesting book recently, Jack Kerouac’s Old Angel Midnight. In the forward to the book, it’s described as Kerouac’s 11-year writer’s block. He worked feverishly at this manuscript, but the result is kind of a glorious gibberish, almost like a jazz artist scatting. Sometimes he makes observations or writes what he hears in the accents he hears them in. Sometimes the work is emotional, sometimes pointed, and most often, it is a look into the soup of his mind.

I found it so comforting to read because it’s the closest thing I’ve ever found to my thought process and why creating something that is eventually linear and comprehensible is such a struggle for me.

Here’s a page from the book (I just randomly opened to this one):

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This page happens to be one of the easier to follow and visualize (and hear). It actually reminds me a good bit of James Joyce. Other parts of the book are harder to reach. But I wanted to share this because we each fall into stories in different ways. Our brains are different. What we attend to most easily is different. And in the end, the journeys we take to find and tell our stories are as unique as we are. After eleven years of working on Old Angel Midnight, Kerouac wrote On the Road in one short burst. My hunch is that he couldn’t have written it without first writing this.

So I had described much of the process of my latest project as being one of chaos and doubt. But at some point, the chaotic pieces began to make sense and fit together and tell the story I didn’t know if I was capable of telling. The passages I had worried were digressions turned out to be crucial. I wasn’t as lost as I felt. And one day, I looked at the stack of pages and thought, wait a minute, I think this has finally become a book.

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Oh! So I almost forgot to share my news! I sold my new book, again to HarperCollins. My editor this time is Sara Nelson. I’m unbelievably grateful to Sara and to the whole crew there and to my incredible agent, and to you, my writer’s support group.

We’re on this long, winding journey together and I couldn’t ask for better company.

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I’ll end, as usual, by sharing the books I read since my last post:

 

Octavia Butler, Kindred

H.G. Wells, War of the Worlds

Caroline Leavitt, Cruel Beautiful World

Jack Kerouac, Old Angel Midnight

Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Hans Fallada (translated by Michael Hoffman), Every Man Dies Alone

Marcy Dermansky, The Red Car

James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

Jesmyn Ward, The Fire This Time

Paul Harding, Tinkers

Emma Cline, The Girls

and Triple No. 3 (a chapbook from Ravenna Press)

 

Oh, and one re-read:

William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying (It’s kind of embarrassing how often I re-read this book.)

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Now, let’s hear from you. Tell me about your work. Tell me about its heart, what excites you, and what terrifies you about it. And what you need to see it through.

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